My Breakdown: An RAC review
Yesterday was supposed to be a busy one for me. Between the usual school runs, writing and housework, I had a client to go and see, then I wanted to see if I could get DH’s watch fixed as a token Valentines day gesture. Lastly, I had to go shopping and pick up some provisions for our adventure next week.
I’ve been trying to walk more lately, so the car has had less use than usual, but yesterday I needed to use it as I was going to have to go to three different places, all some miles apart. So, about 10:30 I got my work stuff ready and headed out to the cesspit that is our vehicle. Our house is cluttered but never gets too dirty, as we have a cleaner twice a week to do the basics. Our car is a different story.
It’s very rare anyone goes near it with the intention of cleaning it, the dogs jump in and out of it after long muddy walks, the kids eat and leave rubbish in it and so it’s in a disgraceful state. Having said that, it’s a Toyota, and so despite nearing the grand old age of 8 , has caused us very little trouble so far. But yesterday, when I hopped in and turned the key, a couple of lights on the dashboard showed up for just a little longer than normal, and I remembered DH had said something the night before about checking the oil level. So I jumped out and did so; it looked fine, so I shut the bonnet, got into the driver’s seat and drove away.
About 10 minutes later, I thought the engine sounded a bit funny and a look at the dashboard showed the temperature gauge was about half way to maximum. But everything else looked okay, so I turned off onto the dual carriageway of the A40 . I did feel slightly uneasy at this point , so stayed in the slow lane. Just as well I did, because 5 minutes later a couple of warning lights started flashing on the dashboard before all the electrics shut down, including the power steering. The motor was still running so I managed to veer off the road and get out of the way of a huge truck that was following me. Luckily there was a convenient forecourt for a Catholic church in just the right place, and I managed to coast in and park the wrong way taking up at least 3 spaces. An hour previously and I’d have ploughed into the vehicles of the 10am Mass goers but at almost 11, the car park was completely empty.
I just sat there for a minute of so, running things over in my mind. Basically my thoughts went something like ‘SHIT! SHIT! £^*&#@ ^&~@*^>£*! but after a bit of deep breathing, I tried starting the engine again. There was nothing, not even a click. I found my wallet, got out my RAC card and rang them. It took a good 5 minutes to get through to a human being but when I did, my details were taken efficiently. That was until the connection dropped. Thinking they would call me back as I had given them my number, I quickly phoned my waiting client and let her know to get on with her day. Then I rang DH to tell him where I was and warn him that he might have to leave work and pick the kids up after school.
I still hadn’t heard from the RAC, so rang them back again and spoke to someone different. I was a little disappointed by this, as I think as an emergency service, they should have at least attempted to contact me again. Anyhow, it seems I was in for ‘up to’ a three hour wait for help. At this point I started to realise I wasn’t really adequately dressed to be spending hours in an unheated car. I searched around the back of the car for anything to keep me warm but there were only a couple of very muddy, smelly old dog towels. Any sensible person would keep a warm blanket or two in the back of the car in case of emergency, but not us. I eyed the dog towels with distaste and put two pairs of ( non matching) gloves on , and DS’s Thomas the Tank engine hat on instead and sat shivering and waiting.
After a while, a car drove up and parked at the other end of the car park. A priest got out and looked in my direction, obviously wondering what I was doing in his church’s carpark. I thought he might come over and challenge me but he didn’t, just wandered off into an adjoining house. I started feeling not just cold, but desperate for a wee. This was more serious.
I got out of the car and walked up to the pavement to see if I could see if there was anywhere I could borrow the toilet, but the road curved just so at the point where I was standing and I could see nothing. I didn’t want to leave the car, in case it got clamped or towed away in my absence and the pressure on my bladder was increasing by the second. Then I noticed the church door was ajar, maybe they would have a toilet?
They did! It’s probably not meant to be used by any old person and I felt like a trespasser but I had no alternative. I don’t know if everyone is the same once they reach 40, but when I have to go , I have to go…
With the toilet problem solved, my body now decided it was hungry and thirsty. I found an unopened packed of crisps floating around which helped me with the hunger, but of course made me more thirsty than before. I mentally added food and bottled water to my ‘must carry in the car at all times ‘ list. Imagine if I’d been stuck with the kids?
At about this time I got a phone call from RAC, confirming it looked like they wouldn’t be with me for another 90 minutes at least. I’d already been waiting 1 1/2 hours so I made a bit of a fuss and said I needed to pick my kids up from school at 3pm. The woman promised she’d see what she could do, but in the end the van didn’t show up until just after 2:30pm. It was a long, boring, cold 3 hours.
So the phone service could have been better and the waiting time was longer than I would have liked, but once the RAC van showed up, things improved immeasurably. The young man who helped me was fantastic, diagnosed the problem ( I needed a new alternator), charged up my very dead battery, reassured me that I hadn’t completely munted the engine, told me to get back in the now warming up car and followed me all the way home through some of the worst traffic I have ever experienced. It must have made him very late for his next job but he wasn’t at all grumpy about it. My recharged battery died completely about half way home, and he had to rig up his battery charger on the passenger seat and connect it in place of my car’s battery in order for me to be able to drive the rest of the way home. Then the RAC battery started dying about 5 minutes away from home, but I kept on speaking nicely to the car ( nutter alert) and we made it. Phew!
Of course, now we have to find someone who can fix our very dead car in the next week, but we are working on that. In the meantime, we’ll be keeping the taxi company down the road busy. We will also be doing a lot of walking. Of course, the kids are just thrilled.